Friday, February 27, 2009

Yesterday's Hero Becomes Today's Villain

The Partido Popular finally acted this week on their repeated threats against judge Baltasar Garzón, and presented an accusation of perverting the course of justice against him. The corruption scandal which has led to this reaction, Operación Gürtel, is inching towards the stage where Garzón will probably have to surrender jurisdiction on the case to the courts which have the job of dealing with those protected by some variety of immunity because of their political position. In the case of members of the regional autonomous asemblies, this corresponds to the Supreme Court of the region concerned. In the case of national political figures then the national Supreme Court must deal with the accusations.

The PP have not just accused him of perverting the course of justice, they have also called for him to be banned from acting as a judge for a period of between 10-20 years. The latest twist in the case has been the indication, still not confirmed fully, that those accused could include the PP's national treasurer Luis Bárcenas. This potentially threatens to turn the case into one of illegal party financing, if it's established that any of the significant sums of money circulating managed to find their way into the PP's coffers. Further information has surfaced on the companies linked to the case. The companies involved have received contracts worth about €20 million from the national government when Aznar was in power, and the regional governments of Madrid and Valencia. It's 19:00 on Friday 27th February and Mariano Rajoy still hasn't explained why he so abruptly broke all connections the national party had with the companies concerned a few years ago.

Meanwhile another corruption case has come to light today, involving a municipality called Alcaucín near Malaga. Thirteen people have been arrested on suspicion of construction related corruption. Strangely there have been no attacks from the PP on the judge ordering the arrests nor has the judge in this case been faced with multiple threats of legal action. Neither have there been any suggestions that it is somehow illegitimate for arrests to be made just before an important election. Someone will probably say that this is because the municipality affected is run by the PSOE. We can be fairly sure, however, that the top "investigative" teams from ABC, La Razón, El Mundo and probably Telemadrid are already descending on the village concerned.

It seems like an appropriate moment to point out that the PP has not always been such a strong critic of the judicial system, nor of Baltasar Garzón. Indeed, there was a time not so many years ago when senior PP figures and their media allies were falling over themselves in the rush to praise Baltasar. This was, of course, when Garzón was pursuing the GAL case involving the PSOE administration led by Felipe Gonzalez. One of the great things about Internet is the ease with which its possible to find what people have said in the past and compare it to their current positions. Here is a small selection:

Pedro J Ramirez, director of El Mundo, wrote in 1991

“Garzón es motivo de orgullo de la ciudadanía […], tan honrado y pertinaz como el legendario John Sirica (juez principal del Watergate)”.

“Príncipe de la Magistratura (…) diestra arma justiciera, que dibuja en la pizarra de la historia uno de los más memorables guiones torcidos de Dios”.

Rodrigo Rato, merchant banker and former vice-premier under Aznar, speaking in 1999....

“No es admisible que se hable de politización de la justicia y de instrumentalización política de la justicia, sería muy correcto que el PSOE dejara de hacer responsable a los demás de sus problemas” (…) El PSOE pone “en grave peligro y deterioro las instituciones españolas básicas”.


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